To the best of my memory, on May 20, 1963, it was 96 degrees on Vancouver Island. I remember it because I stood on the sidewalk watching the Victoria Day parade and after a while the shirts of the people across the street began to blend together into one blur of white. I felt nauseated and dizzy. Luckily, I was able to duck into the lobby of a nearby beer parlour where it was dark and cool, until my heatstroke passed. I wasn’t old enough to go beyond the lobby, but to this day I remember the smell of stale carpeting and beer.
We haven’t had a Victoria Day weekend quite that warm ever since, as far as I know. On the contrary, many times it has been downright miserable. Those who make a tradition of going camping on that weekend will know, having spent many long weekends in May suffering through rainy and cold weather, huddled in tents or campers.
When my brother and sisters and I were young and living in Dawson Creek, we wanted desperately to go camping and stay overnight. What an adventure that would be. We nagged and nagged and finally, our mother gave in and said that if we could get a ride out to Pouce Coupe Park, seven miles away, she would stay with us and camp overnight. Our father had to work, and we had no car, so we were ever so grateful to our mother for volunteering to take us and to procure a ride for us.
We had a great time, roasting wieners over the fire, wading in the muddy Pouce Coupe River (a shallow creek really, except for the big hole under a fallen log where someone drowned nearly every year). The huge playground gave us plenty of room to run around and play games. It was so much fun!
How do you like our logs for the fire? This is what you do when you have no chainsaw. I remember that the smoke kept the mosquitoes at bay while we were around the campfire. We weren’t bothered by them when we ran around the playground either, but as soon as we stopped, it was a different story. And did those bites ever itch!
Check out the vintage of the cars and trucks parked behind the playground.
Our ride came to pick us up the following afternoon and we kids sat in the back reeking of campfire smoke, listening to our mother tell how we fared. As she spoke, I remembered her bolting up to sit on her air mattress in the middle of the night when something hit the roof of the tent. I think it must have been an owl or some other night bird, judging by the flapping noise, but as my mother told it, she was sure the bear she had worried about since dusk had finally come to eat us all. She said she was so scared, she would never go camping alone again. (She wasn’t alone. She had US! What was she worried about?)
We never did go camping again until I was grown up and on my own, but I’ve done my best to make up for lost time.